Covering Up Trading Losses: Opportunity-Cost Accounting as an Internal Control Mechanism
Edward J. Kane, Kimberly DeTrask
NBER Working Paper No. 6823
This paper analyzes the methods of loss concealment used by rogue traders in the Barings and Daiwa scandals. The analysis clarifies how and why these firms' top managers and home-country regulators deserve blame for allowing cumulative losses to become so large. The central point is that information systems that focus exclusively on cash flows tempt amoral traders to build credits that generate a high level of accounting profits. Constructing opportunity-cost measures of profit imposes additional restraints on reporting activity. These restraints make it easier for higher-ups, auditors, and regulators to identify the true sources of accounting profit and to challenge counterfeit earnings.
Published: (Retitled "Breakdown of Accounting at Barings and Daiwa: Benefits of Using Opportunity Cost Measures for Trading Activity") Pacific Basin Finance Journal, Vol. 7 (August 1999): 203-228.